Sunday 21 January 2018

Rachel Allen's top BBQ tips and mouthwatering smokey recipes

Nothing beats a good barbecue. Check out these delicious recipes for a alfresco feast...

Rachel Allen cooking butterflied Chicken. Photo: Tony Gavin.
Rachel Allen cooking butterflied Chicken. Photo: Tony Gavin.
Spatchcooked chicken and grilled aubergine slices. Photo: Tony Gavin.

Rachel Allen

Cooking with fire is the most primal and pure way of cooking — meat, especially. The smoke and flames create that unmistakeable taste of real barbecue. It is a flavour I wish I could enjoy more often, but, when the rain stops long enough for a good barbecue, I'll savour the occasion and every smoky mouthful.

If you can cook with fire, then you can cook with any heat. It's impossible to give exact times for any barbecue recipes because there is so much variability in the heat of the fire, the distance from |the flame and whether the barbecue itself retains more or less of that heat.

It's important to keep a good eye on anything you're cooking to see if you need to adjust the fire or the distance.

Don't be afraid to give your meat a good prod with your fingers (firmness means it is becoming well cooked) or a poke with a skewer (if the skewer goes in and out easily, the meat is tender and cooked). Of course, barbecuing becomes easier with practice, but marinating your meat is especially useful. As well as adding flavour, the marinade means that the meat will stay moist, even in the dry heat of the fire.

My favourite way to barbecue chicken is to spatchcock it first. It's very simple to do, really — using some good poultry shears or a sharp knife, you can flatten out the chicken to ensure it cooks evenly, and every part of the skin gets deliciously caramelised and sticky.

I'll marinate it with everything from yoghurt and ginger to all sorts of different herbs and spices.

The piri piri spice blend, opposite, is simple but really effective, with the chillies providing just the amount of heat that I like, but do deseed them if you'd prefer your chicken not-too-spicy.

Butterflying a leg of lamb or a pork leg is another great way of barbecuing the meat. It ensures it stays nice and flat, so that it will cook evenly throughout. You can ask your butcher to butterfly your meat for you. A butterflied leg of lamb or pork will feed about 10 to 20, or even 30 people, if it is very large. Feel free to adjust the recipe if your leg of meat is larger or smaller than that suggested opposite.

Rachel Allen cooking butterflied Chicken. Photo: Tony Gavin.

Marinated lamb or pork with fragrant spices

Serves about 15.

You will need:

1 leg of lamb or pork, about 3-4kg (6.5-8.½lb) in weight, butterflied

Sea salt

For the marinade, you will need:

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon cardamom seeds, from |green cardamom pods

½ teaspoon chilli powder

3 garlic cloves, grated or crushed

50ml (2fl oz) olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic or red wine vinegar

First, make about 8 long incisions through the fat of the butterflied leg of lamb or pork, to allow the marinade to soak in.

Heat a pan. Add the cumin and the coriander seeds, and cook for about |half a minute, until they’re toasted, then add the black peppercorns and the cardamom seeds, and toss in the pan for a few seconds.

Remove the pan from the heat and crush the toasted cumin seeds, coriander seeds, black peppercorns and cardamom seeds coarsely. Mix with the chilli powder, the grated or crushed garlic cloves, whichever you’re using, the olive oil and the balsamic or red wine vinegar, whichever you are using. Place the butterflied leg of lamb or pork in a large shallow dish. Pour the marinade over the meat and rub it into the flesh. Leave it for a few hours, if possible, rubbing the marinade into the meat every so often.

When you’re ready to cook the meat, lift the meat from the marinade and let the excess drain off, then season the meat with sea salt, and cook it on the barbecue.

To cook the butterflied leg, place it quite far (about 20cm (8in)) from the coals. It will take about 55-60 minutes |to cook. Baste it with the marinade a few times while it's cooking.

Rest the meat for 10 minutes, then carve it.

You can also roast the butterflied leg of lamb or pork, in all of the marinade, in an oven, preheated to 200°C, 400°F, Gas 6. It will take about 1-1½ hours. Baste the meat with the marinade regularly. Again, make sure that you rest the meat before carving it.

Barbecued aubergine slices with tahini yoghurt dressing

Serves about 4.

You will need:

2 medium aubergines, cut into 2cm slices

5 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

250g (9oz) Greek yoghurt

3 tablespoons tahini

1 garlic clove, crushed or finely grated

The juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 tablespoon chopped mint

Brush each of the aubergine slices generously with the olive oil and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Allow the barbecue to get quite hot, then cook the aubergine slices for at least 4 minutes on each side. They should be golden and slightly charred, as well as good and soft, and not tough or hard. You could also do this on the hob on a good cast-iron griddle pan rather than on a barbecue.

To make the tahini yoghurt dressing, mix together the Greek yoghurt, the tahini, the crushed or finely grated |garlic clove, whichever you’re using, the lemon juice, the chopped parsley and the chopped mint, then season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve the aubergines with a good drizzling of the tahini yoghurt dressing.

Spatchcock Chicken with piri piri spices

Rachel Allen spatchcook 2 .jpg
Spatchcooked chicken and grilled aubergine slices. Photo: Tony Gavin.

Serves 6-8.

You will need:

1 medium chicken (1.5-2.25kg/3-4½lb)

3 red chillies

4 garlic cloves

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

4 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

You can, if you wish, barbecue a whole chicken, though the bird needs to be spatchcocked first. This will flatten the chicken so that it will cook evenly on the barbecue.

To spatchcock a chicken, using a good pair of kitchen scissors (or poultry shears), place the chicken, breast side down, on a board. Starting at one end, cut the chicken all along the backbone |so you can open it up, then turn it around to place the breast side up and press the chicken down to flatten it. Some people will put a couple of skewers through the bird for stability. This is handy, but it’s not completely necessary.

Next, put the red chillies (deseed the chillies if you'd prefer the chicken not-too-spicy), the garlic cloves, the sweet paprika, the cider vinegar and the olive oil in a food processor and blend everything to form a rough paste. Rub the mixture all over the chicken and allow it to marinate for at least an hour, or overnight, if possible.

If you're cooking the chicken in the oven, transfer it to a roasting tin. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then roast the chicken in an oven, preheated to 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4.

Depending on the size of the bird, it should take about 50-60 minutes and, when it is cooked, the legs will feel loose and the meat will have no trace of pink.

If you're cooking the chicken on the barbecue, place it on a hot barbecue on the direct heat and cook for 5 minutes, then turn it over and cook it for 5 minutes on the other side. Then move the chicken away from the direct heat and place the lid on the barbecue.

It will take about 45-60 minutes, depending on the heat of the barbecue. Turn the chicken over from time to time to make sure it doesn't burn.

Hair by Amanda Darcy Sloan, Sugar Cubed

Rachel’s clothes: Brown Thomas

Jewellery: Loulerie

Make-up by Roisin Derrane for Lancome, using the Lancome Spring 2014 Colour Collection

Rachel’s tip

Marinating meat for an hour or so will bring some flavour to it and is absolutely worth it. However, if you have the time (and organisation!) to marinate the meat overnight, the spices and other ingredients will really have time to penetrate and infuse the meat with their gorgeous, aromatic taste.

Rachel recommends

We are really lucky to have a few great free-range chicken farmers close to where we live: Dan Ahern’s organic chickens are sold at Midleton farmers’ market and direct. Tom Clancy's beautiful Ballycotton chickens are sold at Mahon Point farmers’ market, while Robert Fitzsimmons sell their birds at local shops around the East Ferry area. All of these farmers will also sell their delicious birds direct.

Dan Ahern Organic Chickens, tel: (021) 463-1058

Tom Clancy Free-range Poultry, tel: (086) 308-9431

Robert Fitzsimmons, see

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